HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some of the latest weather data on the big winter storm hitting the Northeast is courtesy of Keesler Air Force Base's Hurricane Hunters. The group took a ten hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean Monday to gather more information on what's being called the Blizzard of 2015.
Their title may suggest they only hunt tropical storms, but these highly skilled airmen and women are trained to track any potentially severe weather threat.
"When we get these winter storm missions, they're not tasked too often, but when they come around people like to hop on them and get into the game," said Major Douglas Gautrau.
When tracking a winter storm, the C 130Js fly an altitude of about 30,000 feet, rather than the 10,000 feet flown during a tropical storm.
"With releasing the instruments at a higher altitude you get more observations. With that, a higher density profile and it gets the national center for environmental protection, more accurate data. The models make a more accurate forecast for winter snowfall and etc. in the north eastern part of the United States," said Major Gautrau.
The data is sent back to the aircraft through GPS signal and the loadmaster, who released the instrument, makes sure the device was working properly. From release to transmission it's about a 17 minute process. A speedy and efficient [way]to forecast more accurately.
"This data just helps to fine tune what they've got from other sources. They get to compile all the weather data from multiple sources, and we're just one of them. The data that we provide on these missions, it helps increase their accuracy by 15 to 20 percent," said Captain Ben Blair.
Finally, the data will be turned over to the National Hurricane Center which distributes it out to the world, and also sends it to the National Center for Environmental Protection.